Do you hear what I hear? It's the sound of retail managers everywhere quietly closing their office doors and curling into the fetal position as "A Patsy Cline Christmas" plays on continuous loop. What's the cause of this ulcer-inducing holiday stress? Mandatory "family time" with the in-laws? Existential angst? Too much Patsy? Maybe, but the more likely cause is the growing number of savvy shoppers out there this holiday season.
American consumers expect, on average, to spend 17% more on gifts this year than last. So why are smarter, savvier, wealthier shoppers a cause for such angst among retailers? Consider the reasons that consumers dislike holiday shopping:
Waiting in lines (32%)
Finding the right selection of gifts for everyone on my list (26%)
Lack of time to get it all done (19%)
Trying to stay in budget (12%)
Finding parking at shopping centers (10%)
To avoid these hassles savvy holiday shoppers are turning to the Internet to research and purchase their gifts. Consumers find online shopping to be an attractive alternative to forging through the holiday scrum at retail outlets and malls. Shrewd shoppers see the advantages to shopping online as: lower prices (20%); better product selection (9%); more flexible (33%); and more convenient (34%) than shopping offline. Even the game of deal-chicken retailers habitually employ the week before Christmas can now be considered almost quaint as shoppers learn that they can find those deals (or even better ones) on the Internet. It's no wonder that the majority of Americans plan to purchase at least half of their holiday gifts online this year.
Does this spell the end of traditional retail? Hardly, but it does force offline retailers to rethink their approach to the holiday shopping season. Shopping online gives consumers the ability and the information they need to choose the store that's cheapest, easiest, provides the widest selection, and is the most convenient. With the help of comparison-shopping, or product review sites like Wize, consumers save themselves energy, time and money. It's time for offline retailers to realize that a "successful" holiday shopping experience is more than ensuring a customer goes home with a purchase. It's about creating an environment and an experience that gives customers the personal satisfaction of knowing they didn't have to elbow a senior citizen in the ribs to find the best gift at the best possible price.
* Data used to write this blog came from the "Holiday 2006 Shopping Trends Consumer Behavior Report"